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Small rituals make home a place for rest and rejuvenation. In The Wind Down, we explore the wellness routines of people we admire.

Aurora James had been using the spare room in her 1,100-square-foot Brooklyn apartment as a closet when the pandemic hit New York City earlier this year. Faced with the prospect of staying home for the foreseeable future, the Brother Vellies founder and creative director had a realization. “I had created this space that was no longer serving me,” she says. “What I really needed to focus on were the things that bring me joy and were going to help me emerge from this cocoon a little bit greater.” She turned the room into a wellness oasis—in addition to embracing a few more means of self-care.

Photography by Aaron Bengochea

Reconsider the home gym: After clearing her new space of clothing racks, the first thing James added was a reformer. Her favorite studio closed, but the Pilates devotee was able to continue her practice at home. “I thought, if I could sell some clothes and buy a tool that could make me feel better mentally and physically, that was the best possible move,” she says.

Appreciate the little things: This past spring the designer launched Something Special, a small-batch, artisan-made subscription service. “That made me rethink every single object in my home,” says James. “What’s the story behind it? Does it bring me joy?” The first item she sold: a clay mug made in Oaxaca, Mexico, that became the star of her signature morning ritual—swirling nondairy creamer into her iced coffee.

Pause in the moment: James bookends her days with a guided meditation practice from the Hoffman Process in her wellness room. A simple swap made that space more amenable to mindfulness, too. She got rid of the sofa and chairs, and added a sheepskin rug that she could sit or lie down on for a moment’s respite. “I find that very grounding,” she explains.

Fill your space with nature: In the four years she’s lived in her apartment, James has gradually wound wisteria around the patio railing to create a secret garden of sorts, and she recently added a seating area, where she can relax while tending to her planters of strawberries, tomatoes, peppers, edible lowers, and herbs. She has a bouquet subscription from Molly Oliver Flowers and picks up lilies on her grocery store runs, too. “I’ve been inspired by how nature persists,” she says.

Have fun in the kitchen: “I’ve always cooked for other people,” says the designer. “When I started quarantining alone, I was almost embarrassed, like, am I really going to plate things just for myself?” Nevertheless, she did—and started to find joy in making solo meals, such as a breakfast quiche with asparagus and Gruyère.

Photography by Aaron Bengochea

Embrace aromatherapy: During the day James burns sweetgrass in a bowl she created for Something Special: “Its smell is transcendent, and I suspect it has a way of clearing negative energy.” Just before bed, she’ll spritz her pillow with Dream Weaver Mist by Fat and the Moon, which helps her fall asleep and inspires “these really incredible, vivid dreams.”

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